The Well dominated the first-half chances but Killie made their big one count, Greg Kiltie beating Trevor Carson with a fine effort five minutes from the interval. They doubled their lead after 52 minutes, Mark O’Hara sent off for a foul in the box and Danny Whitehall blasting the ball home to send Killie 8th and drop Stephen Robinson’s men into 10th.
Both sides had to win this big affair in the bottom six. The home side were without a win since October 31 heading into this while Alex Dyer’s Kilmarnock had lost five on the spin.
With both clubs needing three points to avoid the thought of looking over their shoulder, a draw likely wouldn’t suffice. Players and staff took a poignant knee before the game, further sending the message of stamping racism out of the game, Dyer receiving a sick racist letter prior to this encounter.
Motherwell started the keener of the two, amassing plenty of forward chances. Tony Watt went close, as did O’Hara and Allan Campbell, but Robinson has been here before when it comes to his side being punished for missing chances. And that they were.
With their first real opportunity of the match, Whitehall showed great strength to give Kiltie a pop at goal, the playmaker sending the ball into the bottom corner. Dyer’s side had something to build on.
A familiar face gave them their chance to double the lead, former Killie man O’Hara denying a clear goalscoring opportunity as the Well player was sent off for a foul in the box. Whitehall made it 2-0.
Now holding a man advantage and 2-0 lead, this was Kilmarnock’s match to lose. Two early second half blows seemed to take the wind right out of Motherwell’s sails as Killie looked to preserve their standing in the match. Worryingly for Motherwell, number one Carson had to be subbed after the hour, just a game and a bit after a return from a serious knee injury.
Aaron Tshibola had a huge chance to make it 3-0 25 minutes from time, finding free space six yards from goal, but his shot was straight at the keeper, Declan Gallagher then having to make an unbelievable tackle to deny Rory McKenzie. A few more opportunities were created by the away side as they strolled over the finishing line with a 2-0 scoreline. Here are three things we learned.
Kilmarnock really needed this after a difficult few weeks at Rugby Park. Dyer’s men showed heart and determination to see this result through, taking their chances when they needed to.
With how tight the Premiership is between 5th and 12th right now, every win can move you up the ladder. Dyer needs this to be the start of a good run, but this result will be of much relief, especially after everything he has been through this week.
Things aren’t happening for Motherwell at the moment. Another defeat leaves them two months without a win, again punished for not taking chances. But in truth, Kilmarnock deserved the win on all fronts.
Now sitting just above the relegation play-off spot, Saturday’s Lanarkshire derby is huge as it could leave them bottom if another negative result is had. Losing goalkeeper Carson to injury again is just rubbing salt in the wounds on a bad night for Robinson’s team.
Before this match, Killie had scored just once in their last five games. Something needed to go for them up top and frontman Whitehall couldn’t have picked a better night to turn in his best display in Kilmarnock colours.
He was instrumental for the first goal and scored the second, his hold-up play excellent up against Motherwell’s three centre-backs. Keeping him in this form could be key for Dyer.
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